Greetings from the Intermountain West, where the silly season is underway. The Utah State Legislature is in session, and the first week or two are always the best show in town, since legislators show up with the pet projects they’ve spent all off-season dreaming up. Already we’ve had the ineffable Chris Buttars suggest that public schools cancel 12th grade to save money, since many European countries don’t have such an extended school career. They’re also in a mood to “send messages to Washington.” In the words of the founder of the Patrick Henry Caucus, a states’ rights group, “this will be a session where citizens and the state government will unite together to push back against this leviathan called the federal government” (Salt Lake Tribune, 26 January 2010). Health care and the stimulus package are likely targets of “message” bills.
But my favorite is the pet project of State Senator Allen Christensen, who wants to kill any wolf that wanders across the imaginary straight lines that define our fair state – even if it’s protected by the Endangered Species Act. Although it was pointed out to the senator that our Constitution’s supremacy clause means that federal law trumps state, he still wants to be on the record with such a message. (There was also that messy War Between the States some time back that seemed to have settled federal vs. state sovereignty.)
No wolves are currently known to be resident within the state, and Utah has not written a wolf management plan, but this is hardly an academic question. Several years ago a wolf from a Yellowstone National Park pack was trapped alive in Morgan County, only a few miles from my home. Utah wildlife officers quickly boxed up the wolf and returned it to its home range. Many biologists think it’s only a matter of time before Wyoming, Idaho, or Montana wolves find their way south to the Wasatch and Uintah ranges.
So Utah wants to send a message to Washington. Doesn’t Western Union still send telegrams? Or perhaps they can Twitter our national representatives while they pretend to pay attention to the State of the Union address.